Mirror Motoring’s Stephen Jones has a new favourite SUV – if only the Volvo XC60 name was a little sexier
When you review cars for your job, you soon learn to have a stock of answers in your arsenal when cornered and asked questions that begin ‘I’m thinking of buying a car, what…’
One of the most common I am asked is variations of: what is the best SUV money can buy?
I have a prepped response that depends on various factors – mostly depending on what I hear when I ask ‘what do you need it for?’
I’ll be polite and not tell you what I used to reel out, let’s just say that since I got behind the wheel of my latest drive, I have a new entry at number one, the superb Volvo XC60.
I wish they had a suitably sub-zero moniker for it rather than this collection of letters and numbers the Swedish purveyors of cool seem to obsess with. But if I tell you that is honestly my biggest gripe with this car, you can probably guess we are onto a winner here.
I’d only taken the delivery of the car for a matter of minutes when I had people crossing the road asking me questions about it; yes, it looks that good. Indeed, for the two weeks we had the car and took it on a road trip to Cornwall, everywhere we went people had something to say about Volvos, always good.
It turns out (if you like me are a non-Volvo owner and didn’t previously know) there’s this kind of secret club of Volvo keepers everywhere that want to tell you how good their cars are, even if you have the key to one.
I learned Volvo owners are a clan, they love their cars, they know they are better than anyone else’s, they wouldn’t drive anything else.
I will tell you what I myself did discover I really liked. The XC60 is a midsize SUV which made it perfect to take on a camping holiday – with a boot space of 468-483L and spacious rear seat leg room/seats that folded down to give you 1,410L, we could fit everything in it.
I daresay, if we had needed to take one, we could have thrown in a kitchen sink with space to spare.
Immediately when you step into the vehicle you feel like you are about to drive a car that costs a lot more than the XC60 costs in reality; you are talking pure luxury level here… value for money, and then some.
The styling and interior could best be described as half plush and half posh. If you want to show off, but keep your bank balance at a sensible limit, this is the car for you.
Inside the cabin it’s like you sit higher than almost everyone else on the road, with the resulting feel of being safer than the rest. Moreover, the XC60’s active chassis with self-adapting air suspension for all wheels makes for a smooth ride even over the bumpiest of roads.
Volvo has a reputation for safety and comfort so neither of these factors should come as a surprise, it’s just quite lovely to experience.
Being smaller than the XC90 of course (the boring numbers do have a point to them) the car was surprisingly easy to negotiate around Cornwall’s narrow lanes with ease, even when large cars needed to squeeze past you. Prior to the journey this worried me, and I had been keener to take the smaller XC40, but I am glad in retrospect we took the XC60.
My favourite feature by far of the inbuilt tech was the speed limit recognition technology. The car has a massive camera behind the rearview mirror which seems to read everything on the road before you can – not least temporary road signs – and adjusts your speed accordingly.
It’s gizmos like this which take the pressure off the driving and help you relax into your journey; I can’t rave about the car’s intuitive and advanced driver support tech enough. Stress free driving is a phrase that springs to mind.
Another massive plus was the huge 12-inch inbuilt console display screen that made things that can be a challenge to navigate on other cars – following the satnav map directions without taking a wrong turn or hitting the correct touchscreen button not the wrong one – so much easier.
If you are a fan of Google Assistant, knowing that this is built into new Volvos could be a vote winner for you; you can easily connect to smart home devices, meaning you could potentially ensure that when you arrive home you’ve arranged for the heating to be switched on from behind the comfort of your steering wheel.
Welcome to the future.
When it comes to options, if I was buying one of these, I would heartily recommend the high-end Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Although be warned, music can sound so good you are in danger of wanting to stay in your car until the song has ended long after you have reached your destination.
Speaking of arriving at your destination, we notably felt more refreshed after our long drives, I suspect because of Volvo’s enviable inbuilt air filter which boasts it prevents 95% of hazardous chemicals entering the cabin. They could have called this Breathe Easy.
Prices start from £39,150 and it’s worth mentioning that with a towing capacity of 2,100-2,400kg, this is an ideal choice for any caravanner. If this sounds a lot, I’d argue it’s worth it for the luxury feel alone.
There’s also a plug-in hybrid version that will give you, it boasts, 32 miles of driving on pure electric, making this a car many would consider suitable for the daily commute or school run.
What do you need it for? I’m tempted to reply: what are you waiting for? The Volvo XC60 is in my view the finest SUV you can get for your money. Worth the extra.
And it’s one of few cars I have had the pleasure of getting the chance to drive that I do actually really miss, especially on long journeys.